Modernism on the Nile

Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary

By Alex Dika Seggerman

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 24 color plates, 74 halftones, notes, bibl., index

Not for sale in the UK, Europe, or the Middle East

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5304-4
    Published: September 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5318-9
    Published: August 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5305-1
    Published: August 2019

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

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Analyzing the modernist art movement that arose in Cairo and Alexandria from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s, Alex Dika Seggerman reveals how the visual arts were part of a multifaceted transnational modernism. While the work of diverse, major Egyptian artists during this era may have appeared to be secular, she argues, it reflected the subtle but essential inflection of Islam, as a faith, history, and lived experience, in the overarching development of Middle Eastern modernity.

Challenging typical views of modernism in art history as solely Euro-American, and expanding the conventional periodization of Islamic art history, Seggerman theorizes a “constellational modernism” for the emerging field of global modernism. Rather than seeing modernism in a generalized, hyperconnected network, she finds that art and artists circulated in distinct constellations that encompassed finite local and transnational relations. Such constellations, which could engage visual systems both along and beyond the Nile, from Los Angeles to Delhi, were materialized in visual culture that ranged from oil paintings and sculpture to photography and prints. Based on extensive research in Egypt, Europe, and the United States, this richly illustrated book poses a compelling argument for the importance of Muslim networks to global modernism.

About the Author

Alex Dika Seggerman is assistant professor of Islamic art history at Rutgers University–Newark.

For more information about Alex Dika Seggerman, visit the Author Page.


“Seggerman argues that there is a ‘constellational modernism’ for the emerging field of global modernism. Her illustrated book presents a compelling argument for the importance of Muslim networks to global modernism.”--Islamic Horizons

“Seggerman . . . presents a new constellational, methodological framework and conceptual model for studying modern art, both Egyptian and worldwide.”--CHOICE

"This deeply researched and well-written book is a gem. . . . Art historians, Middle East specialists, world historians, and a wide range of general readers should all welcome this excellent study."--The Historian

“Crafting the concept of constellational to chart the evolution of modern art in Egypt, Seggerman reconciles the seemingly antagonistic notions of Islamic and modern in art history. Analyzing a selection of preeminent artists’ work, she boldly constructs a nuanced approach to interpreting not only modern Egyptian art but potentially all modern art movements in countries with a living Islamic heritage.”—Nasser Rabbat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“From the crucial final two decades of the nineteenth century, when Egyptian artists were responding to the ambience of colonialism, to the late 1960s, when they were part of the ferment around assertions of both artistic and national sovereignty, Modernism on the Nile takes the history of modern art outside long-outdated traditions of time and territory. Crossing postcolonial, global, and transnational lines, the book aims to shift these theoretical frameworks in order to tell a story of art that is solidly anchored in Egyptian histories even as it proposes a universal grappling with the experience of visualizing modernity.”—Talinn Grigor, author of Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio

“This is an exciting time to be working on global modern art, and Alex Seggerman’s insightful readings of seminal artists demonstrate that modern art in a major Arab region emerges from genealogies that are neither purely Arab nor exclusively Western but in a complex negotiation with these as well as with other historical and transnational formations.”—Iftikhar Dadi, author of Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia

Multimedia & Links

A wealth of additional images for Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary is featured in a new MAVCOR Collection online.